Authors: Kathryn Patterson
‘Did you have dinner?’ I asked.
I ate out.’
Again. You must have it running in your bloodstream.’
He twisted his mouth. ‘Can I go now?’ he asked, already walking towards his bedroom.
‘Go, it’s your life, so you keep reminding me.’
He turned his back on me.
Frustrated, I slammed the palm of my hand on the counter.
Just when he was about to reach the door of his room, he glanced back, hesitated, and finally asked, ‘Are you all right?’
I felt myself blush, surprised by his sudden concern. ‘I’m fine,’ I said, not wanting to cause him any anxiety with my problems. ‘It’s just work.’
I read about this bloke who got his head chopped off in the paper. You’re working on this thing, aren’t you?’
Yes, Michael, I’m working on the case.’
Did you see it?’
The head, you know. Did it look gross?’
Yes, Michael, it was pretty awful.’
Lots of blood.’
Wow, cool. I want to do what you do when I finish school.’
By 10.00 p.m., Michael was watching television in his room. I was restless and needed to burn some energy. I rolled up by myself to Terry Bennetts’ Gymnasium on High Street. No one was there at that time of the night. The radio was locked on Gold FM playing five hours of non-stop seventies music. ‘Lost in the seventies’ said the D.J.
The gym had this male atmosphere about it. The equipment was kind of old, none of this ultra-chrome stuff, which was just the way I liked it. I wasn’t into pretty sport-bras and Hug-A-Figure tracksuit pants. A gymnasium was made for a workout, and this gym looked as if it meant business.
A life-size black-and-white photograph of the now-deceased Terry Bennett hung on one of the walls, next to a leg extension machine. He apparently held the world record for sit-ups at somewhere around 2600. When I first learnt this trivia, I made a quick mental calculation and worked that he would have had to do around eight hours non-stop of sit-ups to accomplish the task. I barely managed sixty sit-ups without a break. I had no intention of beating the world record.
Half an hour into my work out, Ken turned up. Ken worked at the State Library and did around four hours of workout a day. Oddly enough, he looked more like a short labourer than a fifty-year-old librarian. He wore grey hair of a reasonable length and a wild kind of beard. But the most amazing thing was that he could work out for two hours in a row and still look the same. He wasn’t particularly muscular, but he did one-hundred-and-twenty pound deadlifts without twitching an eye. And he could hold an interesting conversation between exercise sets.
We talked about blues and the collapse of the Berlin Wall for a while. It kept my mind off the Wilson’s murder. He asked me about what I was working on, but I said the case wasn’t over yet so I couldn’t discuss anything with him. He took it well like he always did.
I worked my shoulders, biceps, back and abs. During my workout, I drank almost a litre of water from a red Coca-Cola sports-drink bottle I bought from a bicycle shop on Chapel Street. If I had nothing to drink while exercising, I’d die of dehydration. How Ken could workout for two hours without a drop of water was incomprehensible.
It took me an hour and a half to be exhausted enough to decide to get back home.
When I said goodbye to Ken and left the gym, the air was chilled. I felt my throat tightening, a reminder that my chest cold wasn’t over yet. I still had to be careful.
Just as I stepped inside my blue Lancer, my mobile phone rang.
It’s Frank. We’ve got a meeting first thing in the morning at the VFSC with the Deputy Commissioner of Police.’
I felt blood rushing to my head.
I knew what this was going to be about.
Monday morning, I showered and dressed in my best attire - navy Country Road pants with matching jacket and white blouse. I was ready to face three men in business suits who would challenge me with their bureaucratic maze and chauvinistic attitude. Of course, I never believed Frank was one of
, but when he was with the boys, he acted like them. Or he said nothing, and pretended I was invisible.
The traffic was chaotic at 8.20 a.m., and it took me a good hour and a half to get to Macleod where the VFSC was located.
I had the radio tuned to Radio National. I heard my own voice commenting on the Wilson’s homicide. People called the program host straight after the news to debate if Melbourne was becoming too dangerous, if there was too much violence on television, and if one day we would end up killing each other off the way Americans did.
I turned the radio off.
It made me angry to realise everyone was so ignorant. I knew for a fact that murder rates had dropped dramatically in Australia for the past three or four years. I also knew New York’s murder rate had dropped by sixty percent in the past two years.
And then they tell you about the murder rate in America, but no one mentions other countries, like China, where crime figures were probably tempered, where people disappeared and no one said a word. Places like Bosnia where one year of war killed more people than ten years of homicides in the entire United States. Third world countries where thousands of children died everyday from malnutrition and diseases; children who were literally
by their government who was too busy playing war games.
I shrugged, concluding that even in heaven, people would have something to complain about.
The VFSC was located close to Macleod Secondary Technical College.
I turned left into Forensic Drive. A large blue sign with ‘Victorian Forensic Science Centre’ by the side of the road told me I was at the right place. A truck was parked on the right hand side of the road. I passed school kids dressed in yellow school uniforms who waved at me. I waved back. The centre was surrounded with grass and bushland.
I drove past a blue, high steel gate and noticed two Australian flags and a security camera. My speedometer said 40km per hour, 30km over the 10km per hour speed limit. I went right past the car park and towards the main entrance of the building where I was told by another sign to ‘Report to Reception’.
The main building was a brown-creamy colour. Gum trees, mostly eucalyptus, lined the car park. More security cameras were staring at me, reflecting the level of paranoia around when this place was first built in the late 1970s.
I parked next to two police cars, in front of the main entrance. Five motorcycles were aligned next to each other, in spite of the no-parking sign. A 3WE chemical hazard sign next to the main entrance caught my attention, reminding me how little I knew about chemical hazard warnings.
I stepped out of the car, went past the entrance’s glass sliding doors and entered the main foyer.
I nearly lost balance on the highly polished floor. Pictures, awards and trophies on my left made me turn my head, despite the fact that I’d already seen them hundreds of times.
Without stopping, I entered room C47, the front desk at the centre, also known as Liaison Office.
A computer and dot matrix printer to the left of the door were doing overtime, chucking out continuity labels for evidence collected by various police officers across the State.
I glanced over my shoulder, where a clock on the wall told me I was an hour late.
I stated my purpose to the bearded Liaison Officer and was told to proceed.
After going through a maze of corridors, which I had lost myself in several times when I first visited the centre, I stepped inside the conference room without knocking.
Frank Goosh was slouched in the only black, leather-bound executive chair in the room. He had an arrogant look on his face. His beady black eyes tried to destroy the little confidence I had left. My nerves were raw from the aggressiveness of other drivers out there. We spent time and energy chasing killers, but most killers were on the road.
The other men in the room were Frank Moore and Trevor Mitchell, the Director of the VFSC.
I glanced at Trevor Mitchell’s dark suit and white shirt. Not very imaginative, I thought, but considering his position at the VFSC, did he need to be? Trevor Mitchell was in his mid-fifties, grey cropped hair, and had a permanent, severe look on his face.
Empty mugs confirmed each man had already helped himself to a cup of coffee and assorted cream cookies. They were injected with high-octane caffeine, ready to bulldoze through the working day and toss anyone aside who would get in their way. And frankly, I could have done with a cup as well.
Frank Goosh began, ‘I guess you don’t know, Miss Malina, why we’re here.’
Malina,’ I retorted. I felt edgy and on the defensive.
He turned to Frank and Trevor. ‘See what I mean,’ he said as if I had lost all my marbles. ‘This is the kind of shit I have to put up with.’
And I realised these three men already had a little morning debate about my so-called attitude before I even stepped in the room.
I felt my face changing colour. ‘Jesus Christ, Mr Goosh,’ I shouted, leaning forward, my arms crossed over my chest. ‘I don’t address you as Frank. Is it so hard to for you to remember the DR in front of my name? I do have a PhD in Criminal Justice, which I worked damn hard to earn.’
He rolled his eyes as the sound of my voice echoed from one corner of the room to the other.
Trevor Mitchell was unimpressed. He pursed his lips and said, ‘I’d like to get this over and done with as soon as possible. I’ve got some other meetings to attend to, and if you two have nothing better to do than fight over trivial matters, I don’t mind leaving you alone to sort them out.’
‘Everything’s fine,’ Frank Goosh said, then turning to me, ‘Isn’t it,
I moved back in my chair. ‘I guess it is.’
‘Good,’ Trevor Mitchell said. ‘Deputy Commissioner?’
Ah, yes,’. Frank Goosh fidgeted with his fingers as if he had forgotten what this meeting was all about. ‘Dr Malina, it’s been decided to pull you out of the Wilson’s investigation.’
What?’ I said, absolutely stunned.
We have an investigator at the CIB who has more experience with these types of murders. We feel that this case has too much of a high-profile. We can’t afford mistakes to be made. The media is watching our every move.’
I stood mouth-agape for a few seconds. ‘Mistakes? Did I do anything wrong?’ I was under a tight contract, which bound me to strict ethical standards of conducts. But as I recalled, I hadn’t done anything wrong to date.
‘I didn’t say that,’ he said, addressing me as if I was unfamiliar with the English language. ‘You’ve only been on the job six months, and well, let’s just say we would feel more comfortable if someone else, someone who has more experience with these types of homicides, would led the investigation.’
I’m the most knowledgeable person in the field. What on earth are you talking about?’
We’re not doubting your knowledge in criminology. We’re only concerned with your lack of experience with the media.’
That had to be the worst excuse I’d ever heard. And the fact that he kept referring to himself as
, as if everything he told me was a collective decision, made my blood boil.
Does that have anything to do with the other night?’ I snapped.
What do you mean?’ he asked as if he’d suddenly grew a pair of wings, and an aureole floated gently above his cranium. The sonofabitch was playing games with me.
Eyes crossed the table.
‘You’re taking this case away from me because I didn’t let you in the crime-scene area. Isn’t that right?’
He shook his head. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about?’
You don’t know what I’m talking about? You called me a bitch and a little tart, you asshole. I bet you remember that!
I turned to Frank. ‘Isn’t that right Frank? You were there, remember?’ And then I recalled he wasn’t there when I had the argument with the Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Frank shook his head, looking as embarrassed as I’d ever seen.
Goddamn it!’ I said. ‘I don’t believe it. What is this? The Men’s Gallery? What do you want me to do next? Table-dance for you?’
All right, Malina, that’s enough,’ Trevor Mitchell ordered. ‘Frank Goosh
the Deputy Commissioner of Police, and if the investigation has been passed on to the CIB, then that’s the way it’s going to be. The VFSC is a service provider, not an authority.’